How to memorize quickly and effectively | Part 2 banner

For more serious tasks, a more focused and dedicated approach is necessary. By applying these techniques, you can maximize the impact of your memorization efforts.

Table Of Contents

  1. Paraphrase | Actively process the information by reformatting it and outputting it.
  2. Alternative Sources | Consider supplementing or replacing the original material with a superior alternative.
  3. Visualization & Storytelling | Mentally convert information into pictures, scenes or stories.
  4. Prioritization | Actively ignore things you already know and focus on what you don’t.
  5. Holistic Considerations | Your lifestyle significantly affects your mental performance.
  6. Download This Article
  7. Comments

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Return to Part 1 | Part 3 (Coming Soon!)

1. Paraphrase

Fundamentally, what separates advanced memorization techniques from basic memorization techniques, is that they are “active” vs. “passive.” Active memorization is when you process information, re-structure it, and output it, whereas passive memorization is when you memorize the information as it is written/presented.

In other words, you have to paraphrase the information.

There are many ways to do this, including, but not limited to:

  • Summarize It – Re-write it into a concise format in your own words.
  • Make A Cheat Sheet – List all the important information in a bullet point or tabled format
  • Teach It – Explain the concepts to another person.
  • Visualize It – Convert the information into diagram, chart, picture, mind-map, etc.
  • Discuss It – By conversing about it with a classmate, you force yourself to summarize it into your own words
  • ELI5 (Explain It Like I’m 5) – Imagine explaining the material to a 5 year old. This forces you to re-word things into simpler terms.

2. Alternative Sources

Sometimes, the source material is poorly written or presented making any memorization technique you use less effective. It could be that the textbook is is too technical, or that the instructor does not explain things clearly enough. Either way, you could benefit from supplementing (or replacing) from an alternative source to learn from rather than try to adapt to the original information source.

  • Coursera, edX, MIT OpenCourseware – University courses from some of the top universities in the world (MIT, Harvard, etc.)
  • Khan Academy – A huge collection of K to 12 + university courses.
  • Quora – A popular Q&A forum that draws specialists and industry leaders.
  • Reddit – The world’s largest forum, there are hundreds of educational sub-forums such as University of Reddit, Explain it Like I’m Five, I Want to Learn, Ask Science and Ask Historians. Make sure to use the search function first to see if someone has already asked the question you intend to, otherwise, you can post a question yourself.
  • YouTube – There are hundreds of educational channels such as Crash Course, that present traditional courses in highly animated and engaging videos.
  • Wikipedia – The largest encyclopedia in the world.
  • Wolfram Alpha – A knowledge engine that can answer mathematical, historical, statistical, and almost any other kind of query.

3. Visualization & Storytelling

If what separates good teachers from average ones is the ability to tell stories and engage students. Then, what separates good learners from average ones is the ability to visualize and imagine information.

Humans are inherently visual and emotional creatures. That’s why it’s so much easier to learn from a documentary or movie, than from a lecture. It’s why novels are so much more engaging than dictionaries. And, it’s why you’re able to remember faces, but not 5-letter names.

In fact, the most advanced memorization techniques are all based off some form of visualization and storytelling (such as The Method of Loci and The Peg System). You will learn more about these advanced techniques in Part 3 of this tutorial (Coming soon).

Basic visualization and storytelling simply requires you to be creative and convert raw information into vivid pictures and memorable stories. This can be done using one or a combination of the following:

  • Exaggerate Characteristics – Identify something that sticks out to you (such as the color, shape, size, pattern, effect, etc.), then exaggerate it to make it more memorable.
  • Tell A Story – Visualize the information in a movie scene like situation, with actors and a story. The wackier and stranger the story, the better.
  • Use Analogies – Compare the new information to something already known.

At first, you might find it mentally tiring and time consuming to create stories and pictures for each piece of new information, but with practice this will become second nature and happen automatically.

4. Prioritization

One of the biggest differences between experienced and average memorizers is the application of prioritization. Experienced memorizers are much better at ignoring things they already know well. That is, they don’t waste time reviewing things unnecessarily.

Reviewing material you already know is damaging for 2 reasons:

  1. It gives you a false sense of confidence
  2. You waste time the unimportant, taking time away from the important

Prioritization requires you to:

  • Remove/reduce exposure to anything you know well
  • Increase exposure to things you don’t know well
  • Review things you know well periodically to ensure retention

5. Holistic Considerations

Your mental and physical condition has a huge influence on your ability to memorize. Similar to how you find it difficult to concentrate and focus when you’re sick or tired, you can multiply your ability to memorize by living a healthier lifestyle.

If you want to reach your peak memorization ability, technique alone is not enough. You must live the lifestyle of a professional athlete.

Luckily, these lifestyle changes will improve other aspects of your life as well, including: mood, stamina, energy, motivation, self-esteem, confidence, and productivity.

These lifestyle changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Sleep – Get at least 7 hours a day and keep you sleep schedule consistent. Minimize blue light exposure (computer/tv/smartphone screens) before sleeping.
  • Hydration – Keep a water source nearby at all times and drink water or unsweetened tea often.
  • Diet – Minimize carbohydrates (candy, sugar, pop/soda, junk food, bread, noodles, rice, etc.) intake and increase protein (meats, soy, fish, etc.), fat (nuts, avocado, etc.) vegetables and fruits.
  • Walk – Walk often. Don’t drive if you can walk or ride a bike instead. Don’t sit if you can stand or move around.
  • Exercise – Get at least 3 x 30 minute sessions of moderate to intense exercise a week.
  • UV Light – Get at least a little sunlight exposure every day, particularly in the colder months. If you can’t, consult your doctor about light therapy or vitamin d/d3 supplements.
  • Stress – Identify the things that contribute to your stress and take action to avoid, mitigate or overcome them.
  • Schedule – Control your daily schedule and optimize for happiness and productivity. Don’t let your life be controlled by bad habits.

Peak performance cannot be achieved through willpower alone. Professional athletes can only break world-records after years of dedicated preparation for a single event. However, you can achieve above-average performance (in everything, not just memorizing) by making a few positive changes to your lifestyle.

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